New Access My Info tool empowers Canadians to learn what information their telecom collects about them, and shares with third parties, including government entities
Tool built by privacy experts helps shed light on the data telecom companies collect and retain about Canadians
The tool’s launch follows recent revelations from the federal Privacy Commissioner that the government obtained the private information of over 785,000 Canadians from telecom providers without a warrant in just a single 12 month period - a practice the Supreme Court of Canada ruled is unconstitutional on Friday, June 13 2014.
“Until now, data collection, retention, and disclosure policies by telecom companies have been masked in secrecy. This tool empowers Canadians to find out what their telecom is storing about them, as well as whether Canadians’ information has been warrantlessly disclosed to government authorities in the past,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “Canadians have a legal right to request this information, though drafting the request can be quite complex. This easy-to-use tool makes the process more straightforward: it now just takes a few moments to create a formal letter than compels your telecom provider to explain what it collects, why, and to whom subscribers’ data has been shared with. It’s a practical way of helping Canadians respond to Canada’s privacy deficit.”
Dr. Christopher Parsons, of the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto, explained: “Edward Snowden helped individuals understand the sheer scale of data disclosed by private companies to Western governments. But few Canadians understand what information their own telecom provider collects, retains, and may disclose in the course of routine business. This tool empowers Canadians to better understand the scale of the information being collected about them and, by extension, appreciate the significance of third parties potentially accessing telecom companies’ data stores. The tool helps Canadians better understand what’s going on and, by extension, lets us all have more informed debates about what data our telecoms should be collecting and retaining, as well as for how long the data should be retained and for what purposes.”
Andrew Hilts, principal software developer of the Access My Info Tool and coordinator of the Digital Stewardship Initiative, described how the tool works technically: “We developed this tool to be as privacy-protective as possible. When you’re requesting access to your personal information, we shouldn’t get a record of it. The request is really between you and the company. With this in mind, we built this tool so everything happens in your web browser: neither the Citizen Lab, the Digital Stewardship Initiative, or Open Media see the information you fill into the tools’ fields. Even the PDF is generated on the client side. This tool makes the process of creating a request for access easier, but it’s up to individuals to exercise their rights and send the letter to their telco themselves.”
Canadians can use the Access My Info tool at https://OpenMedia.ca/myinfo
OpenMedia.ca is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca and StopSpying.ca, OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law.
About Citizen Lab
The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. It is is one of the world’s highest-profile centres of advanced research. The Citizen Lab designs new approaches for researching and documenting information controls, such as network surveillance, hacking, and censorship. These controls impact the openness and security of the Internet and pose a threat to human rights.
About Digital Stewardship Initiative
The Digital Stewardship Initiative is a collaboration between the University of Toronto’s Canada Centre for Global Security studies, technology startup Fort Effect Company and the broader Canadian Internet community. We conduct research and develop tools and resources to empower people to take more control over their digital lives and have a greater capacity to exercise their rights online.
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
Managing Director, Telecom Transparency Project at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs
Project Coordinator and Principal Software Developer, Digital Stewardship Initiative
About OpenMedia.ca’s privacy campaign
OpenMedia.ca led the successful StopSpying.ca campaign that forced the government to back down on its plans to introduce a costly, invasive, and warrantless online spying law (Bill C-30). Nearly 150,000 Canadians took part in the campaign. To learn more, see this infographic.
On October 10, 2013 OpenMedia.ca collaborated with over 40 major organizations and over a dozen academic experts to form the Protect Our Privacy Coalition, which is the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. The Coalition is calling for effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.
OpenMedia.ca and the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) recently announced they will work together to put a stop to illegal government surveillance against law-abiding Canadians. OpenMedia.ca has launched a national campaign encouraging Canadians to support a BCCLA legal action which aims to stop illegal spying by challenging the constitutionality of the government’s warrantless collection of data on Canadians’ everyday Internet use.
- Bill C-13 would let authorities obtain private information without a warrant. Source: Michael Geist
- Supposed “cyberbullying” legislation will erode the privacy of Canadians. Source: OpenMedia.ca
- Canada's Lawful Access Bill Appears to Have Contained a Provision to Enable PRISM-Style Surveillance Source: Michael Geist
- Lawful Access back on the agenda this Fall? - Michael Geist.
- Data breach protocols deficient in 9 federal departments, watchdog finds. - [Source: CBC News]
- Internet Law expert Michael Geist on why Canadians should be concerned about government spying.
- In this article, The Globe and Mail describes the revelations about Canadian government spying as “disturbing and unacceptable”
- This document, obtained by The Globe through Access to Information, shows how Minister MacKay authorized a top secret program to data-mine global ‘metadata’ in 2011.